Hot on the footsteps of films I saw months ago, this review shall look at ‘Gadoh’, which, true to form, is a film I saw some months ago as well. It was a screening I arranged at my university as a part of a film event, and having seen the film itself prior to the screening, I had wanted to post a review as an effort to create some kind of buzz leading into the event. Of course, several things led to others, and I never did get around to doing it on time. Nevertheless, I still had it stuck in the back of my head, and the end of the year is as good a time as any to let things out of the back of your head.
Interesting, then, that that would be the opening for this review, for ‘Gadoh’ looks at specifically the kinds of things we have in our minds, but rarely speak out loud. Following the troubles brought about by the clashes between two groups of racially-divided students, the school they attend starts to consider options save their collective asses and reduce the bad publicity. As an attempt to go further beyond the norm, Cikgu Anne (Maya Tan Abdullah) asks for a chance from her superiors to correct this behaviour. She ropes in Azman (the film’s co-director Namron), who was sceptical to begin with. Being a drama activist (which is not necessarily the same as being a dramatic activist, though I now feel that the term ‘dramatic’ may be redundant), he did not really see how he could contribute in a positive way, but contribute he did, after being persuaded by Cikgu Anne. The idea of the project is to have a production that could be put on as a way of convincing others of the healed rifts.
However, to simplify and simply say that the film considers the education system to be the main cause of the issues raised is…well, too simple. While the film was largely set in a public school, I see the film making attempts to leverage some of the blame to outside forces as well. We see, for example, the pressures that happens to these boys beyond the school gates; the Chinese boy, for example, is constantly courted and tempted by the life of a gangster. Similarly, brief but important scenes at Khalil’s home highlights the tendency by many to uphold the hierarchy, rather than to consider the future; remember, the theatre production was put on as an attempt to cut back the bad publicity for the school. It isn’t exactly the most altruistic of motives, but perhaps if one would read the school as a representation of a structure and system that is bigger than a mere national school, you might be able to get something out of it.
Then again, perhaps I am running the risk of reading too much in between the lines, because there’s quite a fair amount of those lines to begin with. ‘Gadoh’ doesn’t beat about the bush. It says what it means, it means what it says, and it says it in a fairly authoritative manner. Sometimes I wish that they would hold back a bit on the vitriol, but it is not my place to consider how realistic that may have been. I left the national school system a long time ago, and while I wouldn’t swap the experiences I did go through, I do believe that it has placed me in a position where I am less able to judge how realistic it is, and perhaps just as importantly, how intensely the anger these issues may have provoked for some. Then again, it is a film produced by Pusat KOMAS, who, in addition to being my first official paymaster ever, is fairly dramatic and active when it comes to issues concerning human rights, an umbrella under which race can be found. As the advert goes, it does exactly what it says on the tin.
I will, however, have a bit of a go at two things. The first, on a more minor note, is the script. The script refers not only to the dialogue, which I have covered briefly, but also the ordering of the action. In this case, I am not entirely satisfied by the order of the action, and the ease with which certain things occur. For example, Azman appears to be incredibly reluctant to be involved in the project, but the ease with which he chances his mind suggests that either Cikgu Anne has an incredible power over him, or that he agrees for the sake of agreeing. It occurs throughour the whole film, and I do feel that a little more attention paid as to how people actually do change their mind would, interestingly enough, make the whole film more convincing.
The second issue is the technical package of the film. I understand that it is a low-budget film made with the volunteer assistance of many a person, who may not have been able to dedicate as much as they would have wanted. That being said, Pusat KOMAS is an organisation that is supposed to specialise in this field. Furthermore, Brenda Danker and Namron are not first-time filmmakers. I had expected better technical solutions, however low the budget may be. I don’t expect many to share the same sense of aesthetics, but neither do I expect horribly inconsistent lighting solutions from one cut to the next. It is minor issues such as this that distracts me that is the biggest drawback of the film for me; with a more competent package, I believe ‘Gadoh’ is the kind of film that would have at least travelled to a few of the festivals on the circuit, given the subject matter. A little more attention might have brought it a lot further beyond these shores.
That will not be the main thing the target audience will be concerned with. This is a film that seeks to throw all sorts of dirty laundry out there. I do feel that it has made a solid attempt to connect with the audience by airing pretty much all sorts of thoughts and ideas that many would prefer to keep silent. For my part, ‘Gadoh’ is not just a film that seeks to portray, but I believe it tries to be a catalyst, at least for further discussion. It seeks a fight with those who uphold a system, a system beyond the schools, that further perpetrates such extreme prejuidices.
How this fight will end, however, probably will say more about the audience than it does about the film.
Fikri launched into a flying kick in his last fight in secondary school. Hmm.